Central Canadian Rocky Mountains
At the heart of the Central Canadian Rocky Mountains (CCRM) is one of the largest continuous protected landscapes in the entire Yellowstone to Yukon region. The 340-mile (550-km) long protected area extends from Kakwa Provincial Park on the northern part of the Alberta/British Columbia (B.C.) border, to Peter Lougheed Provincial Park southwest of Calgary, Alberta. This important habitat encompasses four iconic national parks (Banff, Jasper, Kootenay and Yoho) and several provincial parks and wilderness areas.
Collectively, these areas support most species of wildlife that existed when Europeans arrived hundreds of years ago, including grizzly bears, wolverines and native populations of cutthroat and bull trout. In 1984, the four mountain national parks and adjacent B.C. provincial parks were named by UNESCO as the Canadian Rocky Mountains World Heritage Site.
Value to Yellowstone to Yukon Vision
The CCRM, and in particular the protected areas within its boundaries, is a core region. Its habitat supports one of two grizzly bear populations within the Yellowstone to Yukon region deemed large enough to sustain itself over evolutionary time (the other is located in the northern portion of the Y2Y region). In the parks complex, existing connections have been maintained between Banff, Jasper, Yoho and Kootenay national parks.
Although the combined protected area in the CCRM is extensive (13,514 square-miles or 35,000 square-kilometers), threats persist both inside and outside the protected areas.
Important habitats outside the parks have minimal protection. Often protection is limited to mountaintops and high-elevation terrain, and leaves critical valley-bottom wildlife habitat open to logging, oil and gas development, and recreation. Also excluded are large tracts of headwater forests which, in addition to their value to old-growth-dependent species like caribou, help buffer millions of people in downstream communities from increasingly frequent floods and droughts. The addition of subdivisions throughout the region also impacts this region.
Our protected areas ecosystems are also impacted by intense tourism. Some of Canada's busiest highways and railways bisect our parks, as well as the rest of the region. While in some sections wildlife overpasses and underpasses have been built to improve wildlife connectivity and decrease highway wildlife-vehicle collisions, several other sections require similar work. Together, these and other threats have significantly reduced the size of Alberta’s grizzly bear population, such that they were listed as Threatened in 2010.
Y2Y Goals and Gains
Goal: Y2Y is working to maintain habitat security within this protected landscape and increase it on adjacent provincial landscapes and private lands. We hope to ensure that this region continues to act as a safe haven that supports source populations and allows movement in response to changing climates and habitats.
Gains: Y2Y inspired the addition of wildlife-crossing structures and fencing on Canada’s four-lane Trans-Canada Highway through Banff National Park. The project has been proven to reduce wildlife-vehicle collisions and to ensure wildlife connectivity. Fencing and two wildlife underpasses were also placed on Highway 93 through Kootenay National Park with support from Y2Y. Additionally, in 2014, an obsolete dam in Banff National Park was removed, restoring connectivity for native trout. Y2Y helped to promote this outcome. Click to see more progress.
What We Are Working On Now
Alberta Headwaters: The province is creating land-use management plans that will determine how land is used for the next 50 years. Y2Y is leading an initiative to ensure these plans protect Alberta’s headwaters.
Central Canadian Rocky Mountain Private Land: Y2Y is working to secure private lands that are used by wildlife to move between Banff National Park and other provincial parks.
Highway 1: Y2Y is working to promote wildlife-crossing structures along the Trans-Canada Highway (East of Banff) to reduce wildlife-vehicle collisions and improve wildlife connectivity.